Friday, November 10, 2017

Every Day

 Every day is a struggle. As I approach the second year of mom’s passing, I have to find the strength to move forward. Some days I’m hopeful and other days I’m angry or sad. My mood shifts quickly and I feel out of control for a brief second. Letting go of some things is harder than I anticipated and I get attached to objects that aren’t Mom. I finally understand how and why people collect trinkets and items that we would perceive as junk. With every item that one attaches themselves to there is a memory that belongs to it. That memory lives within the trinkets and every time it is looked at or touched the journey brings you back. It’s hard to let go when there is a small piece of Mom still left here to haunt me.

Things make me cry more than they used to. I’m more sensitive and raw than I used to be. Maybe it’s because I can still feel her even though she’s no longer here. When I look into her bedroom she’s sitting on her bed watching television completely immersed in whatever it is that’s on the screen. When I drive down certain roads, I reach over and remember what it was like to have her in the passenger seat. I miss her with every fiber of my being and hurts from the core of my being.

I’m told that it will get better. In some ways it has. I shed a tear but its not for long and then I move forward with my day. Grief therapy has helped me to cope with day to day life. It’s giving me tools to deal with it but sometimes I feel more lost than ever. I look back and remember how much she missed her mother and I hope that they’re together.

In spite of it all I will continue to smile. I will let go of the things and I will live life in this moment because it’s what she would have wanted. It’s what I want. I love you Mom.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hometown

Many people see Las Vegas as a place of glitz and glamour. It's the city of dreams. You could walk into a casino and play the right hand or hit the right jackpot and become rich. The showgirls are beautiful and the entertainment is top notch. What happens there stays there and it's usually a lot of fun. 

For me growing up there was a whole different perspective. I went to school every day. I walked home most of the time. As a teenager I worked in the Forum Shops at Ceasar's Palace slinging candy. It was home. We did the every day stuff that everyone does only there were slot machines and fancy casinos. Mom was a teacher and my dad worked construction. My childhood really wasn't much different and I felt safe there. 

Yesterday I awoke to a tragedy that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. The headlines keep reading, "59 dead and over 500 injured." It's a scene that I watched over and over and I can hear the gunshots as if I was there. My heart breaks when I think about this tragedy and I admit that I felt comfort when I learned that all of my family and friends were safe. I know that others weren't so lucky. I know that many thought they were going to a concert. They were going to have fun and make memories and instead a memory no one hopes to have was forced upon them. 

I suppose I could pray. I'm not sure what good that would do. What's done is done and now we as a community have to clean up. In the last several months we've seen so much tragedy. We have watched countless communities ravaged by shootings, hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. I'm not a person of huge faith so the only thing I know to do is send love and try to be a positive force in my life and in my work. I've lost complete faith in the leaders of this country but I haven't lost faith in  my fellow man. The bright shining moment through all of this tragedy is that we have once again pulled together. 

I wish I could hug my family now but they're too far. I hope against hope that we figure out how to move forward and learn from this. I wish I had words of wisdom on this blog but I don't. All I have is love and I hope...


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

To Be Humbled and Grateful...



As a stylist, you try to connect with each client. There are some that no matter how much you try, you just never get on the same page. Then there are others that you wonder if you somehow bonded in another life. One of those people for me is Hannah. She came into the salon with all her fire and awesome curly hair. I was humbled when she told how far she drove just to see me ( all the way from Brenham). It always humbles me that someone would drive down the street to see me, let alone miles and miles.

Every time I saw that she was on my books, I was always excited. We both had so much to talk about.  She is a real estate agent kicking butt and taking listings. She also listened to my sadness and my journey of grief from the loss of my mother this past year. She allowed me to be the professional I needed to be and the ear that I sometimes need even though my job is to listen. She's one of those witty and smart people that you can't help but love. When she came into the new salon space ( Sweet 101 Salon ) she was so excited for me and she loved that I had a partner in crime, Lyndsey, with me. I'm telling you, I love this chic. She truly is one of those people that smiles and you smile with her because you have to. It radiates from her soul.



Not long after the last appointment I had with her, she posted on Facebook that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart broke. I have known people in my life who battled cancer and won but this one hit home for me. Maybe it's because we're not that far apart in age but mostly because she and I resonated from the beginning of our client/stylist relationship. When she learned that she would not only have to undergo a double mastectomy but also chemotherapy, she messaged me. Hannah wanted to donate her hair and she wanted me to cut it. 

I had to cry before I could even respond to her. I had not only grown to love and respect this woman, but the hairdresser in me was proud of our hair journey. But the tears came from a more visceral place. Being a hairstylist is very personal for me. Every two hours I make someone feel good. Or at least that's the end goal. Now Hannah was asking me to cut off all of her hair so that someone else could love her hair as much as she and I did. Not only was I asked to do that but she allowed Lyndsey and me to a part of their family for a day. In solidarity, her sisters Abby, Laura, and her husband Charlie, had all decided to go under the shear.



So this past Sunday afternoon, we decided to make it a party. Lyndsey and I put together a gift basket and my sweet husband, Cliff, helped us put together a small spread of snacks and sparkly drinks. We had decided that we were celebrating life. This negative thing was going to be turned into a positive thing. They were all doing the chop together. There were tears and laughter through out the day. I thought of that moment in Steel Magnolias when Truvy says, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." That was exactly what we had. 

I was reminded of what it is I love about this job. There are days when I'm tired of standing and I couldn't care less about another person's want or need and then something like this knocks me back down to earth. I am blessed to be where I'm at. I'm also honored that someone thought so much of me and my friend Lyndsey, that we were invited to be a part of this amazing family for one afternoon. I'm humbled and grateful. I'm forever changed. 

"Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I rise..."-Maya Angelou. 






Sunday, May 14, 2017

Since we last spoke....Happy Mother's Day

It's been quite some time since I've written. The last few months have been full of schedules, time passing, and more days of grief. I couldn't bring myself to commemorate the anniversary of Mom's passing with a blog. It just didn't seem right and then suddenly it's real. So here we are, a year and some months later and it's Mother's Day.

I wasn't sure about this Mother's Day. Through grief therapy I'm learning that I'm in the acceptance phase of grief. This basically means that it's hitting home. As I have come out of the initial fog of the first year of losing Mom, the reality is setting in. Truly setting in. The second year is the reminder that it's for real. I've heard everyone say that you have to get through all of the firsts that losing a loved one entails. For me it appears to be the seconds; the second year begins, my second birthday without her, and the second Mother's Day. It's the one where I'm sober and not inbibing in a bottle of wine to masque the sorrow.

But I didn't wallow today. Instead, I spent Mother's Day celebrating with friends at a lovely brunch. Then Cliff and I rounded out the day by attending the wedding of two people that we have come to know and love over the years. They finally made it legal today. In between events I talked and text with family in the effort of spreading love and joy. I honored Mom by doing what she taught me to do; love. I unconditionally loved today. I would like to think that somewhere Mom is watching and smiling because I did what she taught me to do.

I miss her so much it makes my whole body ache. Some days, there aren't even tears, just fatigue and an empty heart. I see friends who still have their moms and I feel a little envy. Then I hope they know how precious their time is with their mom. Still, I trudge on and I live every day for me and for her. I do what I can to carry on her legacy and the legacy of moms everywhere. She is ever present and always with me.

Happy Mother's Day Mom. Stay in the light where you belong.








Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas...A Letter to Mom

Dear Mom,

This our first holiday season without one another. Even when we didn't live in the same city, we still called one another and talked for hours. So much has changed since you were here last Christmas. Jodie is having a baby, I'm producing a couple of short films, and we put a real tree up for Christmas this year. Benny is doing his usual stuff; laying on the couch and climbing into our bed in the morning.

This morning when the house finally stirred, I was reminded how much I missed you waking up and groaning your way into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I swear you made a noise with every step. It's funny the things you miss when someone is gone. Sometimes I try to imagine that you're still sitting in your room watching the craft channel.

I miss you more than I ever thought possible. Some days it's an ache. Other days it's a wave of emotions. Today for example, I had to take a few moments here and there. I tried not to wallow in the fact that you're not here. I know you wouldn't have wanted it that way. I'm really trying to move forward and make you proud. I'm working on my second book and I'm producing two short films. One is about you and your creativity as a single mom.

I have learned so much from this past year. It's been tough. One thing I know for sure, I would still move you here in spite of what I know now. I'm so grateful that we got to have Christmas together the last few years. I'm lucky that I was able to have you be a part of my every day life. I'll be o.k. Thank you for being in my life the way you have.

We all miss you and we love you. Merry Christmas where ever you are,

Love,

Valerie



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Jones Beach

The sun was just beginning to rise on the east coast horizon. Like a shy child it peeked out from behind the clouds. Soft amber glow reflected on the water as it gently crashed upon the shoreline. Fisherman were doing their best to get the first catch of the day as chubby birds stalked the beach for any sign of leftover food from the previous day's beachcombers. The wind blew from all directions to clear the air and keep it fresh and cool. In this moment there was peace.

I had never experienced so many emotions come together as they had this weekend and this morning. My heart twisted in and out of itself. We were here fulfilling our mother's last request. We all knew that she wanted to be a part of the beach. She wanted to be free. It felt so odd to already be here in this place, carrying out her last request. About a month before she died we talked about her wish to be taken to Jones Beach.

"Are you sure that's what you want?" I asked her.

"Yes, I want my ashes scattered there," she answered.

We were sitting in her bedroom next to one another on her bed. The soft glow of the television lit her face up. I could see the certainty in her eyes when she answered me. She was so tired and her body hurt for many years. This was the last discussion we would have and I think we both understood that.

"It may take us a few months because we all need to get there," I said. "Is that O.K.?"

She nodded her head and told me that was fine. She just wanted to go home.

For reasons I won't get into, only three of us made it to the beach. My baby sister, Jodie, had a hard time letting go. We all understood and carried her with us in spirit. Even though she wasn't physically there, her heart was with us and at the end of the day, we were a complete family.  In total, there were ten of us on that beach; siblings, spouses, and grandchildren all gathered between the fisherman and the birds. The last time we were here together was so long ago that I only remember it in snapshots. My brother was three, I was just over a year old, and Mom was pregnant with my sisters. We had come full circle.

My husband, Cliff, found biodegradable urns and carried out the task of making sure that we each had a piece of Mom to carry to the ocean. The Lord's prayer was said in unison and with love. My sister Jannie and I held hands and walked together into the water with Mom and flowers in hand. The waves crashed up to our waists drenching everything. The water embraced us with a fluid hug. When the next wave came, we gave Mom to the water. Then my brother, Mitch, followed. The flowers and Mom washed back one more time as if to say, "I love you." Then the ocean swept back in and took her forever. We all stood in the water for a few more moments saying goodbye and sending up prayers.

During all of this, one of the most beautiful people that I know was there silently observing and capturing the moment for us all. Film maker and photographer, Natasha Straley joined our family and encapsulated this moment with her camera. I am and will be forever grateful that she was able to come to Jones Beach and be there with us and for us on this journey. It was another reminder of how blessed we are as family.

I can't say that something magical happened for me today but when it was all said and done, a sense of peace came over us all. The heavy burden that I have felt for the last several moths was lifted. I will still grieve for my mother every day. That's just the nature of grief. It has to run its course. For the last three years she was integrated into my life in much of the same way that she was when I was a child. I'm truly grateful for that time. Bringing her home was a privilege and it will be something that I carry with me. It's something we'll all carry with us. I love my family with every fiber of my being and I'm thankful that we could be together. Maybe that's where the magic is.

Rest In Peace Mom. We love you.

JoAnn Debra Almquist
September 14, 1949 - January 23, 2016










Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Birthday...

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's been a hard day without you here. I've tried to do my best to get through the day with more joy than sorrow. I can't lie, it's been hard. I would have loved to take the day off and spend it with you. I keep thinking about the time we took you to Bucca Di Beppo. Man we had quite a crowd there. We had so much for and dessert was crazy. I'll never forget the look on your face when they brought it out in that giant martini glass full of ice cream. It was topped with mounds of whipped cream and cherries. The best part was the giant spoon that they gave you to eat it with. You were totally overwhelmed. 

Last year wasn't as full of ceremony but we still managed to go to dinner and spend time with you. I had hoped to have you here this year. I'm not going to tell you that I was planning anything major because you left us right after the new year but I know that I would have made big deal. You loved being the center of attention and it was fun to watch you be the center of attention. This would have been karaoke time!

I just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday wherever you are. This weekend we'll be taking you back home and back to your roots. I know you'll be happy there. It's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life but you raised me to be a strong woman. I hope to feel you smiling down on us when we wish you a fare thee well. We're going to be all together like you asked. I love you.
                                   
                                                                                    Your daughter,
                                                                                           Valerie
P.S. I'll make sure to eat some cake:)